Wednesday, October 20, 2010


November 5th - 22nd 2010
Five15 Arts
515 E. Roosevelt Street
Phoenix, AZ

A multi-media Exhibition by


featuring the Carvings



My newest exhibition at Five15 Arts is called Whittlin'. It is a multi-media show featuring the work of folk artist, Joseph A. Snyder.

Joe is an unknown folk artist from Idaho. He started carving wood, as his main hobby, over 20 years ago in 1989 when he and his wife were retiring to the small mountain town of Idaho City. Prior to working with wood he had used a variety of other mediums. For example: he was an avid leather worker, making purses, belts and wallets for everyone in his family. He also was a painter, a rock collector, a handyman and made his own latch hook scenes. His carvings started with bears and boots and progressed into an entire array of people, animals, objects and canes. His first bear was made out of a 2x4 and was quite skinny. Joe teases , as he often does, "That the bear had a hard winter." Joseph was a prolific craver creating hundreds of objects in his basement workshop and still carves today, at the age of 91, although at a slightly slowed rate.

Joe Snyder is also my maternal Grandmother, I grew up, in Idaho City, visiting my Grandparents almost every Sunday. Thus, I was around his constantly growing collections of carvings as it developed. There were multiple Cowboys, moonshine makers and hobos, many based on stories from Ekalakah, Montana where my Grandmothers homestead was. My Grandfather is also quite the story teller so there were many stories told in conjunction with the various carvings. There are bears, birds, farm animals, some realistic and some from stories such as the rabbits from my Grandmothers favorite story as a child, Peter Rabbit. This is how I remember my Grandfathers carvings from childhood, a slew of brightly colored characters and animals with stories and fantasy to go along with them.

I returned to their home for the summer of 2010 as an adult, with an art degree expecting to see things in a different light. Other, than a deeper appreciation of the skill and artistic commitment it took to create this large body of work, my perception of the carvings hasn't changed very much. I believe that the carvings are really rather amazing and extremely unique.

There has always been an aspect of my Grandfather that was sorry that nobody, other than family and friends, ever saw his work. His home, stuffed full of his carvings have never really been shared. Due to my own gallery opportunities and my appreciation for his endeavors I decided to put on this show. Using his passion and creativity in conjunction with my own to create a hybrid presentation of his carvings.

Image: Goaty Goat

The show will be consist of framed digital prints of a selection of the carvings, a projection of a majority of his 300 plus carvings, a series of stop animations made with his carvings and a video documentary piece featuring Joe and his process.

The Hound that Gets Around from Alison Sweet on Vimeo.

This will be my second solo show at Five15 Arts and my third big show since graduating last May from Arizona State University. I help to co-curate the A.E. England Artlink gallery and have worked with various artists on their Phoenix projects. I was also awarded an emerging artist grant this year from Contemporary Art Forum via The Phoenix Art Museum.


Whittlin' will open on November 5th at Five15 Arts. Five15 Arts is open Friday's 5-9pm and Saturdays 1-5pm, it is located at 515 E. Roosevelt Street in Downtown Phoenix. The show will be open from November 5th through November 22nd. Additional gallery hours can be facilitated by contacting me at Shoe Made Of Cheese at Gmail.

Image: Patrick The Bay Horse

Image: Pa Pa and Ma Ma Bear

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Captain Cornelius O'Connor

As part of my endeavors while staying with my Grandparents this summer, I have been researching the families history. I have never, previously, been particularly interested in genealogy or my family history. I thought it always a little bit strange because many people come to it as trying to find out who they are. I've always thought that searching for some sort of justification of self is silly.

However through my growing interest in history and the development of the American West I have come to the point of researching portions of my family history and where they were in it all.


My Great Great Great Grandfather, Captain Cornelius O'Conner was born on September 17th 1821 In Cork County, Ireland. His father Timothy H O'Conner (Born 1786 in Cork County, Ireland) brought my Great Great Great Grandfather to Boston Massachusetts in 1829 at the age of eight years old. He was raised in Boston Massachustes and learned the carpenter trade. They were of the catholic religion.

Captain Cornelius O'Connor at 62 years old. September 8th, 1882
(My birthday as well as my Great Great Great Grandmothers)

This is the back of the photograph, because I find the back just as interesting.


James Hamilton Photography, Sioux City, Iowa
James Hamilton was a pioneer photographer who was born in 1839 in Kentucky, according to the book, Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide, A biographical Dictionary 1839-1865. He ran a photography studio in Sioux City in his later life and is known for his stereographic series of farms, Indian chiefs, camps and burial grounds.

Cornelius O'Connor was a veteran of the Mexican War which took place from 1846 -1848. He would have been 25-27 at this time.

In 1851 at the age of 30 he married, Cathrine M. Duggan, also an immigrant and a Catholic from Ireland. She has the same birthday as myself, September 8th -- but she was born in 1831 in Shandagan, Ireland.

Both of my Great Great Great Grandparents where Virgos.

Catherine M. Duggan, born September 8th 1831, Shandagan, Ireland.

The date of this photograph is unknown but because it is a cabinet photograph the rough date can be assumed by looking at the aspects of the card, although it is still not completely accurate.

The Cabinet Portrait format was not universally adapted until 1870.
This card has rounded corners, is quite thick and it has very large logo on the back which according to one source would put it in the 1880's.


This photo is a classic example of Cabinet Photography, the original print is on a 4 x 6 inch poster board.
Cabinet photography began taking the place of Carte De Visite process as early as 1860 but had been replaced by home photography snapshots by 1900's. The Cabinet photograph was an albumen print and the biggest difference from the prior popular process was that the cards where easily displayed on mantels and cabinets, thus the name. Prior to being used for portraits the cabinet print was used horizontally for landscapes. The backs of the cabinet portraits often had complex logos advertising the photographer, as does this photograph of Catherine Duggan/O'Connor.

In 1852 at the age of 31 he relocated with his wife to New York City where he worked as a carpenter and had their first son, My Great Great Grandfather, Cornelious J. O' Conner on September 22nd 1855.

He stayed in New York for five years until He took the steamboat up the Missouri River to the town of St. Johns City in 1857, which was a Catholic Irish colony formed just the year before in 1856. This was also during the time of the mad rush to the west, included in their numbers were the Mormons, and Nebraska was generally the jumping off point.

Nebraska was on the edge of the "frontier" at that time and the area had many violent encounters with Native Americans, amongst them --
In 1857 on March 8th, 140 miles away in Spirit Lake, Iowa a "renegade" Dakota chief, Inkpaduta, attacked and massacred the population amongst the homesteads. This was not the first homestead they had descended upon. This was in retaliation to several injustices served to the Native people by white settlers.

Most likely due to Corneliuses military connections from the Mexican War, he was appointed by the Governer of Nebraska territory in 1858, which was William Alexander Richardson at the time, to be the captain of a company to suppress trouble with the Native Americans. He was then Captain Cornelius O'Connor.

The captain was a very busy and involved man in the progression of Nebraska.
In1858 he became the assessor in St. Johns during the very fist election held there. He served in the 8th and 11th territorial legislature during a time when the country was at odds with each other. He was a staunch democrat and supported those principals during this time. He was a delegate for the Nebraska constitutional convention when the Nebraska received it's statehood in 1867. He was the director of the dakota county school for twenty years and a charter member of the Farmers Club in Dakota County.

When first coming to Nebraska they lived on a land claim on Elk Creek where they lived in a one bedroom home with all of their children, until they started planning their huge, 14 bedroom, home on 1,000 acres just outside Homer, Nebraska in the bluffs. The Captain was a carpenter and contractor and supervised the building of the home along with doing much of the work himself.

I have found conflicting dates about the start and the finish of the building. One source says it was started 1865 and completed in 1875. The museums website says the home was started in 1875 and fully complete in 1879 -- although they had their eldest daughter, Helena's Thomas Green's, marriage breakfast in the home in 1875. Even that is a conflicting date because another history says Thomas Green married Helena O'Connor May 2nd 1876. So I am uncertain. Thomas Green was also an Irish Catholic immigrant who was doing quite well in the brick business is Sioux City, Iowa

(The date of this photo is unknown, the home was not started in 1865 and not fully completed until 1875 but I do not know the date they actually moved in. This photo does not have any photographer markings on it at all. I only know that the top little look out portion of the house blew off in a tornado in 1890 so it had to be taken before that. So sometime between 1875 and 1890. The top has been rebuilt on the current museum.)

IT is a good example of rural american Italianate architecture and was quite luxurious for it's time.
The stair case is hand carved by O'Connor made of walnut cut from his property.
There is a marble fireplace inside that they had imported from Italy.
The fondation is built of rock, stones shifted and fitted together to create a solid foundation.
The home is now a museum in Homer, Nebraska.
Here is the website, it has a god-awful song that plays when you open though:

The date of this photo is unknown as well, There is an imprint on the card stock below the photo that reads:
Peabody's Studio, Lyons, NE
Lyons was not even an incorporated town until 1884 -- many of the children died in 1889, so I would imagine the photo was constructed before this time unless they just added the photo after the fact, which is entirely possible. They possibly even made this photo due to the death of so many of the children.

He had ten children total, many died early from tuberculosis except for my great great grandfather Cornelius J. O'Connor, Timothy and Helena.

The names of all the children are Cornelius, Timothy, Helena, Mary, Daniel, Julia, Charlotte, Katie, Maggie, Frank.

I have contacted the Dakota historical society to see if they can tell me which one is which.
The only know which one Cornelius is.
My Grandmother believes that the museum does not have this photograph of the house with the ten children. I haven't heard back as of today.

I haven't been as successful about finding out information about the Captain in his later life, although I am sure he was quite busy. I am working on researching the next couple of generations of O'Connors.
Captain Cornelius passed away in Homer, NE August 15th 1902 and his wife Catherine lived until December 14th 1917, also in Homer NE.

Their son, My Great Great Grandfather, Cornelius J. O'Connor was a prominent member of Nebraska, ran a bank and held a couple of different offices.

His son, Arthur O'Connor, my Great Grandfather had tuberculosis and traveled to New Mexico's Fort Stanton for treatment.
I will be doing further Tuberculosis research in relation to Arthur and americas history.

I am doing my best to research and put dates and people together. If I am incorrect on anything it is not on purpose, and I have found conflicting dates on multiple things.

-Alison Sweet

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Grandfather Project 2010

This is my new project and life endeavor. In a few weeks I will be relocating to Idaho City, ID to start work on what, at this time, I am calling The Grandfather Project. If you would like to support this project financially, it is listed on a website called, which allows artists of various sorts to solicit their friends for "pledges" to complete their project.

Here is the link to my Kickstarter platform, pledges run through AMAZON.

The Grandfather project will be video documentation of a lifetime of stories told by my grandfather, Joseph A. Snyder. Joseph Snyder is currently 90 years old and has been married to my grandmother, Rosemary Snyder, for 64 years. They have lived their entire lives in the western United States and are thus living pieces of 20th century western life and culture.

Anyone who has lived for 90 years would have an interesting perspective on life to share but additionally Joseph Snyder has lived an incredibly diverse intriguing existence that is worth hearing about. When his life began he was put up for adoption, only to be reclaimed by his Jehovah witness mother at the age of six. His mother then lied about his age in order for him to work in the coal mines at an earlier age and this is just the very beginning……..

Joseph and Rosemary Snyder continue to live independently in their log home in the rather remote Idaho mountains above Idaho City, Idaho.They now live a quite life, playing a daily game of cribbage together. They are both avid readers and hobbyists with my Grandfather carving and my Grandmother making quilts and knitting.

Their Duquette Pines home near Idaho City, Idaho

While, Personal documentation accounts are immediately valuable to the family and interested parties, these first hand cultural narratives gain even more historical value and relevance as time passes and there is no longer anyone around to provide the perspective from their generation.

The Grandfather Project is scheduled to take place summer of 2010 -- as the project gets underway short stories will be available for view online along with photos and project updates to project pledgers.

In addition to the video documentation, there were also a be a photos series based on my grandparents own artistic endeavors and a digital archive of the six generations of photographs that are in their possession.

After the completion of the video recordings, a longer video piece will be available as well as a series of fine art photographs that will be shown at Five15 Arts in Phoenix, Arizona in the fall of 2010. The work will also be shown at The Phoenix Art Museum June of 2011.

Playing Cribbage -- November 2009

Myself with my grandfather in their home, November 2009

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and I would greatly appreciate it if you would consider making a pledge on

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Bird Cage -- multi-media Installation by Alison Sweet and Cory Weeks.


The Bird Cage was a multi-media installation featuring 21 portraits of Modern Day women, a video of interviews and about 800 feet of recreated hand made wallpaper.

The title of the show along with its wallpaper pattern is from the infamous Bird Cage theater in Tombstone Arizona. Tombstone was a boomtown due to the discovery of silver in 1877 before Arizona was a state. it was often a very tough place to survive and yet was also one of the fanciest and richest towns in the west during it's time. The Bird Cage theater was only in operation from 1881 to 1889 but during that time it developed a reputation for debauchery, violence and prostitution.

The Bird Cage gained it's name from the fourteen cribs on the balcony level of theater were legal prostitution took place. Few women actually chose a life of prostitution, although there were a few that did for adventure, its then lucrative nature, or as an escape from the potentially dull life of a housewife. More Often though, when women would lose the men in their family they would have little other option than prostitution or suicide and many women chose the latter.

The artists don't intend this to be a show about prostitution or elude in anyway that the modern day women in these portraits are prostitutes. The intention is to examine women's place in history and in Arizona history both historically and currently.

Cory Weeks and Alison Sweet are both recent graduates of Arizona State University and modern day feminists dedicated to furthering the cause of women's rights and equality both politically and culturally. The days of The Bird Cage were really not that long ago in history and while, women's rights have certainly progressed since then there is still a long ways to go before men and women are truly equal in society. The hope in these portraits is to envision how the future "wild west" will embrace the value of women in society. This vision includes equal pay, gender equality, and destruction of the modern stereotypes of beauty.

The women in the portraits are the artists friends and fellow female artists that agreed to sit for a "wild west" persona portrait and share their story about how they came to Arizona and their roll in modern times. In preparation for the portraits the women were also encouraged to bring items to be included as props that related to them as
individuals as well as females. The portrait style was inspired by a different "notorious" place, Storyville, New Orleans and the photos by Ernest Bellocq.

Here are a few of the portraits that were in the show:

Installation photos
Artlink AE England Gallery
424 Central Avenue
Civic Space Park

I submitted this project to The Contemporary Art Forum of The Phoenix Art Museum and was selected to receive one of their 2010 material grants. I presented the project to Contemporary Art Forum and will be able to show the project I am planning for this summer in the Phoenix Art Museum for month in the spring of 2011.